The US Government Accountability Office has identified issues regarding F-35 spare parts shortages and difficulty in managing and moving parts around the world.
“Spare parts shortages and limited repair capabilities. F-35 aircraft were unable to fly nearly 30 percent of the May-November 2018 time period due to spare parts shortages.”
The report also advised that the US Department of Defense (DOD) had a repair backlog of about 4,300 F-35 parts. The DOD is taking steps to fix these issues, such as improving the reliability of parts. However, the GAO claims it has not fully determined actions needed to close the gap between warfighter requirements and the performance the F-35 supply chain can deliver.
“Mismatched parts for deploying aircraft. DOD purchases certain sets of F-35 parts years ahead of time to support aircraft on deployments, including on ships. But the parts do not fully match the military services’ needs because F-35 aircraft have been modified over time. For example, 44 percent of purchased parts were incompatible with aircraft the Marine Corps took on a recent deployment. Without a process to modify the sets of parts for deployments, DOD may be unable to meet the services’ operational needs.”
The report also said:
“An immature global network to move F-35 parts. DOD’s networks for moving F-35 parts around the world are immature, and overseas F-35 customers have experienced long wait times for parts needed to repair aircraft. Without a detailed plan for the network, DOD may not be ready to support an expanding fleet.”
The GAO report made eight recommendations, including that DOD determine actions to close the gap between service requirements and F-35 supply chain performance; and address challenges with deployments, global parts movement, and spare parts accountability. Stating:
“In addressing these challenges, DOD must grapple with affordability. The Air Force and Marine Corps recently identified the need to reduce their sustainment costs per aircraft per year by 43 and 24 percent, respectively. DOD has spent billions of dollars on F-35 spare parts but does not have records for all the parts it has purchased, where they are, or how much they cost.
For example, DOD is not maintaining a database with information on F-35 parts the U.S. owns, and it lacks the necessary data to be able to do so. Without a policy that clearly defines how it will keep track of purchased F-35 parts, DOD will continue to operate with a limited understanding of the F-35 spare parts it owns and how they are being managed. If left unaddressed, these accountability issues will impede DOD’s ability to obtain sufficient readiness within affordability constraints.”
The US DOD reportedly concurred with all of GAO’s recommendations.